Over the last summer I volunteered at a summer camp for children ages 5 through 12. Every day for six weeks I used pedal power to conquer the hill known only as Depot. Once I arrived at Abbot School at 7:30, I began my seven-hour day of cleaning, entertaining and giving piggyback rides to a plethora of small individuals, each with different plans of action and insecurities, each needing his own special attention. By helping these kids and working with other counselors, I was able to develop a better sense of responsibility not just myself, but for those around me.
In the beginning I helped with a group of twelve-year-olds. I had a lot of fun because they were the most mature campers, and I could relate to them. They didn't need as much help as the younger kids so the director of the camp switched me down to six-year-olds.
For the previous few years I had gone to an adventure camp in the woods of Maine. There I participated in rafting, rock-climbing, and sea-kayaking. But nothing, and I mean nothing, could have prepared me for working non-stop with 15 six-year-olds. From fights over batting order to who got to sip from the water fountain first, we were in a constant state of pandemonium. I could now understand why parents always seemed to let out a sigh of relief as they dropped off their little bundles of energy every morning.
For the first summer I was doing something that benefited someone else, and I found more satisfaction in that than any wasted breezy day of summers past.
During this unique opportunity of giving a small part of my summer, I was able to get back so much more. I learned how much my time is really worth and how to take responsibility for myself and especially others. I learned how different each individual is and how needs vary. By learning about others, I learned more about myself and what I can do. I gained more confidence when I realized I could survive in the real world. @
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.